Dorm Construction Schedule Threatened
IPOP Clearance Major Remaining IssueBy Laura McGrath Moulton
Groundbreaking for the new undergraduate dormitory on Vassar Street should occur early this spring.
“We have to get over all of the regulatory hurdles before we can break ground, but that’s in process now,” said Project Director Deborah Poodry.
By that point, all parties hope the weather will be mild enough to avoid digging through frozen ground. However, Poodry said the cold should not be a major issue for the contracting company, Daniel O’Connell’s & Sons, Inc.
“The permitting issue is the bigger issue right now,” Poodry said. The contractors “are chomping at the bit.”
Poodry projects that the construction will take eighteen months.
“That’s moving very quickly,” Poodry said. Assuming the project does take eighteen months, construction would have to begin by late February 2000 in order to open the dormitory by late August 2001.
Anne E. C. McCants, Founders’ Group member and Associate Professor of History, said, “It’s an enormously fast schedule.”
Dorm could miss fall 2001 deadline
McCants said that “If nobody files suit [appealing the permit], we can still make it; and if we miss the deadline, it will only be by a few months.”
McCants said that even the “worst-case scenario” -- an opening as late as December -- could be effectively dealt with by MIT, and that it would not seriously delay or disrupt the new dormitory’s positive contribution to the residence system.
Obstacles currently include a number of standard building permits and, more significantly, the filing of the Interim Planning Overlay Proposal permit with the City of Cambridge.
Cantabrigians have twenty days from the filing of the permit to formally object to the project. Objections would represent the last possible formal obstacle between MIT and breaking ground for the dormitory.
Potential parking problems
David A. Hoicka ’77, a recent candidate for city council and advocate for affordable housing in Cambridge, said that the key issues raised by the new dorm are parking and overcrowding.
He said that MIT assured residents that the building would create additional parking and that parking zones would be redrawn so that the new dorm falls in an MIT zone. The building currently stands in the Cambridgeport zone, Hoicka said, and residents fear that MIT student cars would crowd their neighborhood permit spaces.
Hoicka also expressed concerns about a possible continuing move of students currently housed in Boston to Cambridge and the additional crowding in the Cambridge market such a move would create.
“MIT should deal with these issues” before they “create more friction in the neighborhood,” Hoicka said.
Although the project meets all Cambridge zoning requirements for the location, MIT must still file an IPOP permit with the city, said Sarah E. Gallop, Co-Director of the Office of Government and Community Relations at MIT. This “unusual” permit is required because of the size of the dormitory project, which exceeds 50,000 square feet.
The IPOP requirement was creating by the city to allay concerns about overdevelopment.
“We went through the hearing process and the IPOP was granted. Once the IPOP is granted, it has to be written up by the city with stipulations specific to the project,” said Gallop. Cambridge will monitor the project to ensure that MIT does not deviate from the original design described in the permit.
“That language is not finalized yet, but that should be done any day now. When that is done, the permit will be filed,” said Gallop. After the permit is filed, a twenty-day waiting period follows during which anyone can appeal the project. If no one has appealed the project at the end of the period, MIT is free to proceed with groundbreaking, said Gallop.
Frank Dabek contributed to the reporting of this article
Housing forum planned
Noting that the work of the Founders’ Group is largely done as far as the new dormitory is concerned, McCants called for a broader community focus to examine the future of the residence system as a whole.
The Founders’ Group will host a community forum on Monday, February 7th, to discuss both the progress of the new dormitory and larger residence issues. The forum will be held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Room 10-250, McCants said.